Almost from the moment he set foot on campus in December, new coach Al Golden has been in "change the culture" mode in Miami: Insisting on longer workouts with heavier weights, enforcing class attendance, mandating team breakfasts and issuing a booklet instructing players to sit in the front row in class, show up early, remove hats and earrings indoors and "hold back on cursing." In the same vein, Golden promised some "wake-up calls" on the team's first pre-spring depth chart, because "some guys got their butts beat out in the offseason program." Well, what new coach doesn't, right?
They all do. But they don't all follow through by symbolically demoting both would-be starting quarterbacks in favor of a former walk-on recognized mainly for his clipboard skills:
Among several surprises from the depth chart released Friday afternoon, the biggest was at quarterback where little-used Spencer Whipple will open spring practice Saturday morning as the team's No. 1 quarterback ahead of senior Jacory Harris and sophomore Stephen Morris.
How long that will last is anybody's guess. Golden based the depth chart on the team's off-season conditioning program and not on a player's past performance on the field.
Who is Spencer Whipple? Among other things, he's a) Son of departed offensive coordinator Mark Whipple; b) A former transfer from UMass who was named scout team player of the year in 2009; and c) The regular holder last year on extra points and field goals. And almost certainly d) Not Miami's starting quarterback in an actual game unless Harris and Morris are both injured.
Not to sell anyone short, but Whipple's only notable action as a quarterback came in place of the freshly concussed Harris in the 'Canes' 24-19 loss at Virginia last October, when he completed as many passes to the Cavaliers (two) as he did to his own team in six attempts. Coaches were forced to burn Morris' redshirt in the second half to get Whipple off the field, and the freshman played well enough over the last month of the season to put him neck-and-neck with Harris going into the offseason. Over/under on the restoration of the pecking order: One week.
The quarterbacks aren't the only ones Golden is trying to slap awake. Offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson, a mega-hyped recruit and Freshman All-America last fall, is listed with the second team, as is Harland Gunn, who started every game in 2010 at guard. The leading returning receivers, seniors Travis Benjamin and LaRon Byrd, are both second-teamers. Starting safety Ray Ray Armstrong and defensive end Olivier Vernon aren't listed on the defensive depth chart at all. Freshman Thomas Finnie, an early enrollee who was playing for a state high school championship a couple months ago, is listed as a starter at cornerback. Welcome to the jungle, fellas.